IBS (also known as spastic colon, intestinal neurosis, and nervous indigestion) refers to a disorder of the lower intestinal tract that leads to abdominal pain and abnormal bowel movements.

The cause of IBS is not known, but it can occur after an intestinal infection (post-infectious IBS). IBS symptoms may be worse in patients who also have stress or mood disorders, such as anxiety, and depression; however, these conditions do not cause IBS.

Symptoms range from mild to severe with most people experiencing the milder ones.

  • Abdominal distention
  • Abdominal fullness, gas, bloating
  • Abdominal pain that:
    • comes and goes
    • is reduced or goes away after a bowel movement
    • occurs after meals
  • Chronic and frequent constipation, usually accompanied by pain
  • Chronic and frequent diarrhea, usually accompanied by pain
  • Emotional distress
  • Depression
  • Loss of appetite

The goal of treatment is to relieve symptoms.

Lifestyle changes can be helpful in some cases of IBS.

  • Regular exercise
  • Improved sleep habits
  • Dietary changes

Other possible treatments may include:

  • Counseling in cases of severe anxiety or depression
  • Anti-diarrheal medications for those whose main symptom is diarrhea
  • Low-dose antidepressants to help relieve intestinal pain
  • Medications to stimulate bowel movements for those with constipation